“[A] sly and emotionally complex debut collection…[Black’s] unflinching candor allows her to mine extraordinary revelations.” –Boston Globe
“Alethea Black's characters are witty […] without turning caustic, and remain mostly cheerful about their uncertain futures—just the kind of people with whom we want to connect.” — Corrie Pikul, Oprah.com
“This debut reads like a dream, with nary a false note…a well-balanced collection filled with low-key charm and notable talent.” – Kirkus Reviews
“A sense of vulnerable restlessness is betrayed by the otherwise pragmatic characters of Black’s strong debut collection.” – Publishers Weekly
“I Knew You’d Be Lovely is an impressive offering, from a strong new voice, of stories about life’s desperation.” – Joseph Arellano, New York Journal of Books
“Alethea Black is downright brilliant at capturing the restless striving for a self that we all are feeling in this parlous and unsettling age. I Knew You’d Be Lovely is a splendidly resonant debut by an important young writer.” – Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize winning author of A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain
“ With humor, honesty and wary hope, Alethea Black’s stories capture the pain and power of loving fully—and celebrate life’s small astonishments amid our shared human search for the divine. I KNEW YOU’D BE LOVELY is thoughtful, entertaining and, ultimately, powerful.” – Daphne Kalotay, author of Russian Winter
"When I came to the end I wanted to read the next page - or write it, but then I realized that there was no more to be said; as in the Navajo prayer, 'In beauty it is finished.'"N. Scott Momaday, Pulitzer Prize winning author of House Made of Dawn
“Alethea Black writes with a deceptively light touch, yet her work packs a serious punch...There’s a spiritual hunger in her stories reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor, combined with a voice that is all her own.” – Sharon Pomerantz, author of Rich Boy
“Reading Alethea Black’s seemingly effortless prose is like slipping into water – the eerily clear kind, that shows you more than you may want to see.” – Glen Hirshberg, winner of the 2008 Shirley Jackson Award
“Alethea Black can drop you into a dream with a single sentence, then convince you it’s real. Her characters’ best hopes and worst fears usually come to pass, often in fabulous ways, but their adventures feel inevitable and true—not only because Ms. Black richly imagines her people, but because she loves them. I Knew You’d Be Lovely is a lovely debut, with masterful prose and inspired invention on every page.”
—Ralph Lombreglia, author of Men Under Water
"There's a touch of Lorrie Moore in Alethea Black's stories, but the voice is all her own. Black writes about love, yes, but she also writes about solitudeits travails and its pleasureswith a winning combination of insight and charm. I Knew You'd Be Lovely is a terrific debut." – Joshua Henkin, author of Matrimony
“Black’s is a rich, accomplished and startlingly good literary presence…the 13 stories collected here are well-crafted and engaging. Black’s observations on life, love and the human condition are keen and welcome.” –Monica Stark, januarymagazine.blogspot.com
“The title of Black’s collection reflects the optimism buoying these 13 stories…[Black’s] nimble wit carries her through.” – Vikas Turakhia, Cleveland Plain Dealer
In her debut story collection, Black shows a commitment to character and situation, the basic elements of fiction crystallized in short form that make this genre so appealing to so many. In the opening story, "That of Which We Cannot Speak," a socially awkward, recently divorced Brit on his own in Manhattan meets a woman at a party who wears a clipboard announcing that she has laryngitis and enumerating her responses in block print to the usual range of party questions: "SAMANTHA/YES/NO/NOT SINCE 1979/KIKI AND I WENT TO GRADE SCHOOL TOGETHER/THAT'S WONDERFUL!/THAT'S HORRIBLE!/I KNOW JUST WHAT YOU MEAN." Of course, the two—one deeply distrustful of the spoken word and the other literally without a voice—manage to communicate quite well and with a surprising depth, in much the same way that the constraints of a sonnet can lead to clear utterance of a long-hidden emotional truth. VERDICT The movement toward truth and connection among lovers lost and found may be common ground in the contemporary short story, but Black's stories are in no way common. Readers who once waited impatiently for each new volume, say, by Alice Adams, will be grateful for a writer who offers similar satisfaction.—Sue Russell, Bryn Mawr, PA
Characters struggle to overcome their fears and fulfill their desires in a cautiously upbeat set of stories.
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained" could be the unofficial motto of the sensitive young adults who inhabit Black's recognizable world. But often, they must be prodded to act. The opener, "That of Which We Cannot Speak," sets the stage with its depiction of a divorced man trying to connect with an attractive physician at a New Year's Eve party. Her laryngitis makes it impossible for her to speak, so they communicate via a clipboard she keeps around her neck. In the title story, a young woman conquers her jealousy over her boyfriend's friendship with a beautiful writer with a sexy, win-win solution in which everyone gets what they want. "We've Got a Great Future Behind Us" introduces us to an estranged pair of well-known musicians who manage to come together one more time to write a good song about their train wreck of a marriage, and the suburban dad of "The Only Way Out Is Through" turns a family crisis, during a disastrous camping trip, into a last-ditch opportunity to bond with his troubled son. The toll of not taking action is tallied as well, when Elizabeth, the elder sister in "The Summer Before," comes back to her family's summer home after a years-long absence only to realize the ways in which she has not recovered from her parents' divorce. And in the mournful final episode, an aunt must face her own ambivalence toward commitment when her newly widowed sister asks her to sign on as emergency guardian for her young children. Although it could benefit from a bit more warmth toward its protagonists, this debut reads like a dream, with nary a false note.
Well-balanced collection filled with low-key charm and notable talent.